I'm writing a simple wrapper for std::unique_ptr, which copies the pointed object when copied.

Unlike this wrapper, it properly copies derived classes if unique_ptr points to a base class.

Also it supports a feature similar to std::visit, which is described below.

(As noted by @Quuxplusone, deep-copying feature resembles that of std::any.)

Here's a short description of my class.
(The implementation is at the bottom of the question.)

  • It supports conventional operator*, operator->, T* get(), and operator bool.
  • It doesn't have .reset(), but my_obj = {}; can be used instead.
  • Can be copy constructed/assigned. When copied, copies the underlying object.
  • Can't aquire ownership of an external pointer, and can't release ownership of stored pointer.
  • std::make_unique-esque construction: DynStorage<T> my_obj = DynStorage<T>::make(…);.
    Can be written as DynStorage<T> my_obj(…); if argument list is not empty.
    Example usage:

    auto x = DynStorage<int>::make(42);
    std::cout << x.get() << '\n'; // Prints 42
  • DynStorage<Derived> can't be converted to DynStorage<Base> (to simplify the implementation).
    The only way to make a DynStorage<Base> that points to a derived class is to use DynStorage<Base> my_obj = DynStorage<Base>::make<Derived>(…);

  • const DynStorage<T> doesn't allow you to modify the pointed object (unlike unique_ptr).
  • Pointers to arrays aren't supported.
  • Supports a feature similar to std::visit, but you have to specify every possible visitor function in advance in an (optional) template parameter of DynStorage:

    // Assume we have some classes:
    struct A {virtual ~A() {}};
    struct B : A {};
    // Some overloaded (or template) function:
    void foo(A) {std::cout << "foo(A)\n";}
    void foo(B) {std::cout << "foo(B)\n";}
    // And we want to call a correct overload on a pointed object:
    int main()
        auto x = DynStorage<A>::make(); // Makes an instance of A
        auto y = DynStorage<A>::make<B>(); // Makes an instance of B
        foo(*x); // Prints foo(A)
        foo(*y); // Prints foo(A), but we want foo(B)
    // Here is how we do that:
    template <typename BaseT>
    struct MyFuncsBase : DynamicStorage::func_base<BaseT>
        virtual void call_foo(BaseT *) = 0;
        using Base = MyFuncsBase;
    template <typename BaseT, typename DerivedT>
    struct MyFuncs : MyFuncsBase<BaseT>
        void call_foo(BaseT *base) override
    int main()
        auto x = DynStorage<A,MyFuncs>::make();
        auto y = DynStorage<A,MyFuncs>::make<B>();
        x.functions().call_foo(x.get()); // prints foo(A)
        y.functions().call_foo(y.get()); // prints foo(B)

The implementation



#include <memory>
#include <type_traits>
#include <utility>

namespace DynamicStorage
    namespace impl
        // Type trait to check if A is static_cast'able to B.
        template <typename A, typename B, typename = void> struct can_static_cast_impl
            : std::false_type {};
        template <typename A, typename B> struct can_static_cast_impl<A, B,
            std::void_t<decltype(static_cast<B>(std::declval<A>()))>> : std::true_type {};
        template <typename A, typename B> inline constexpr bool can_static_cast_v =

        // Type trait to check if A is dynamic_cast'able to B.
        template <typename A, typename B, typename = void> struct can_dynamic_cast_impl
            : std::false_type {};
        template <typename A, typename B> struct can_dynamic_cast_impl<A, B,
            std::void_t<decltype(dynamic_cast<B>(std::declval<A>()))>> : std::true_type {};
        template <typename A, typename B> inline constexpr bool can_dynamic_cast_v =

        template <typename A, typename B>
        inline constexpr bool can_static_or_dynamic_cast_v =
            can_static_cast_v<A,B> || can_dynamic_cast_v<A,B>;

        template <typename T> T *get_instance()
            static T ret;
            return &ret;

    // Downcasts a pointer. Attempts to use static_cast, falls back
    // to dynamic_cast. If none of them work, fails with a static_assert.
    template <typename Derived, typename Base> Derived *derived(Base *ptr)
        static_assert(impl::can_static_or_dynamic_cast_v<Base*, Derived*>,
                      "Pointer to derived can't be obtained from pointer to base.");
        if constexpr (impl::can_static_cast_v<Base*, Derived*>)
            return static_cast<Derived *>(ptr); // This doesn't work if base is virtual.
            return dynamic_cast<Derived *>(ptr);

    template <typename B> struct func_base
        using Base = func_base;
        virtual std::unique_ptr<B> copy_(const B *) = 0;

    template <typename B, typename D> struct default_func_impl : func_base<B> {};

        typename T,
        template <typename,typename> typename Functions = default_func_impl
    class DynStorage
        static_assert(!std::is_const_v<T>, "Template parameter can't be const.");
        static_assert(!std::is_array_v<T>, "Template parameter can't be an array.");

        template <typename D> struct Implementation : Functions<T,D>
            static_assert(impl::can_static_or_dynamic_cast_v<T*, D*>,
                          "Pointer to derived can't be obtained from pointer to base.");
            std::unique_ptr<T> copy_(const T *ptr) override
                return ptr ? std::make_unique<D>(*derived<const D>(ptr))
                           : std::unique_ptr<T>();

        using Pointer = std::unique_ptr<T>;
        using FuncBase = typename Implementation<T>::Base;

        FuncBase *funcs = impl::get_instance<Implementation<T>>();
        Pointer ptr;

        // Makes a null pointer.
        DynStorage() noexcept {}

        // Constructs an object of type T from a parameter pack.
        template <typename ...P, typename = std::void_t<decltype(T(std::declval<P>()...))>>
        DynStorage(P &&... p) : ptr(std::make_unique<T>(std::forward<P>(p)...)) {}

        DynStorage(const DynStorage &other)
            : funcs(other.funcs), ptr(funcs->copy_(other.ptr.get())) {}
        DynStorage(DynStorage &&other) noexcept
            : funcs(other.funcs), ptr(std::move(other.ptr)) {}

        DynStorage &operator=(const DynStorage &other)
            ptr = other.funcs->copy_(other.ptr.get());
            funcs = other.funcs;
            return *this;
        DynStorage &operator=(DynStorage &&other) noexcept
            ptr = std::move(other.ptr);
            funcs = other.funcs;
            return *this;

        // Constructs an object of type T (by default)
        // or a derived type from a parameter pack.
        template <typename D = T, typename ...P,
                  typename = std::void_t<decltype(D(std::declval<P>()...))>>
        [[nodiscard]] static DynStorage make(P &&... p)
            static_assert(!std::is_const_v<D>, "Template parameter can't be const.");
            static_assert(!std::is_array_v<D>, "Template parameter can't be an array.");
            static_assert(std::is_same_v<D,T> || std::has_virtual_destructor_v<T>,
                          "Base has to have a virtual destructor.");
            DynStorage ret;
            ret.ptr = std::make_unique<D>(std::forward<P>(p)...);
            ret.funcs = impl::get_instance<Implementation<D>>();
            return ret;

        [[nodiscard]] explicit operator bool() const {return bool(ptr);}

        [[nodiscard]]       T *get()       {return ptr.get();}
        [[nodiscard]] const T *get() const {return ptr.get();}

        [[nodiscard]]       T &operator*()       {return *ptr;}
        [[nodiscard]] const T &operator*() const {return *ptr;}

        [[nodiscard]]       T *operator->()       {return *ptr;}
        [[nodiscard]] const T *operator->() const {return *ptr;}

        FuncBase &functions() const {return *funcs;}


using DynamicStorage::DynStorage;


Some thoughts:

  • It seems to work, but I'm not sure if I handle all possible exceptions correctly.
  • I don't like the visiting syntax (especially visitor definitions), but I'm not sure how to improve it.
  • It seems that copying (and visiting) could be optimized a bit by using function pointers instead of virtual functions, but I'm not sure how to do it elegantly.
  • \$\begingroup\$ ⟪It seems to work, but I'm not sure if I handle all possible exceptions correctly.⟫ Try multiple base classes and virtual base classes. Try non-public base classes, and multiple copies of the same base class among the ancestors. \$\endgroup\$
    – JDługosz
    Jul 1, 2018 at 0:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not 100% sure, but this "unique_ptr, but copyable, and can hold any derived type, and can be visited via RTTI" smells an awful lot like std::any. Consider recasting your question (and your intuition about the desired behaviors of your class) in terms of a "visitable std::any." \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2018 at 3:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JDługosz Multiple bases and virtual bases seem to work. Non-public bases and duplicate bases produce compile-time errors, as expected. (But the errors are ugly, I'll add proper static_asserts.) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2018 at 12:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Quuxplusone I guess you're right, it's similar to a visitable std::any. I decided to present it as unique_ptr-like class because stored types are restriced to classes derived from a common base, and it's possible easily get a pointer to that common base (which makes it different from std::any, and I want to keep this behaviour). I think I'll leave the question mostly unchanged, but add a note about it resembling std::any. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2018 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


That's really neat! I really like the idea of provoking the on-demand instantiation of the polymorphic dispatcher by passing it as a template template parameter.

That being said, I agree with you that the dispatching syntax can be improved quite a bit.

x.functions().call_foo(x.get()); // Yuck!

How about something that looks more like a proper visitor:

visit(x, &MyFuncsBase::call_foo);

This can work because pointers to member functions can be dispatched polymorphically. Here's a rough outline of how i'd go about pulling that syntax off:

#include <memory>
#include <iostream>

template <typename T, template<typename> typename DispatcherT>
class DynStorage {
  using base_dispatcher = typename DispatcherT<T>::base_t;

  struct StorageBase {
      virtual ~StorageBase() {}
      virtual T* getData() = 0;
      virtual base_dispatcher* getDispatcher() = 0;

  template<typename U>
  struct StorageImpl : public StorageBase {
    U data_;
    static DispatcherT<U> dispatcher_;

      base_dispatcher* getDispatcher() override {
        return &dispatcher_;

      T* getData() override {
          return &data_;

  std::unique_ptr<StorageBase> storage_;

  DynStorage(std::unique_ptr<StorageBase> s) : storage_(std::move(s)) {}

  template<typename R, typename... argsT>
  R dispatch(R(base_dispatcher::*func)(T const&, argsT...), argsT... args) const {
    return (storage_->getDispatcher()->*func)(*storage_->getData(), args...);

  template<typename U=T>
  static DynStorage make() {return DynStorage(std::make_unique<StorageImpl<U>>()); }

template<typename T, template<typename> typename DispatcherT, typename CB_T, typename... argsT>
decltype(auto) visit(DynStorage<T, DispatcherT> const& x, CB_T cb, argsT... args ) {
  return x.dispatch(cb, args...);

struct A {};
struct B : public A {};

struct MyFuncsBase {
  // no need for a virtual destructor
  virtual void foo(A const& val) = 0 ;
  virtual int bar(A const& val, float v ) = 0;

template<typename T>
struct MyFuncs : public MyFuncsBase {
  using base_t = MyFuncsBase;

  void foo(A const& val) override {
    std::cout << typeid(T).name() << std::endl;

  int bar(A const& val, float v ) override {
    return 0;


int main()
    auto x = DynStorage<A, MyFuncs>::make();
    auto y = DynStorage<A, MyFuncs>::make<B>();

    visit(x, &MyFuncsBase::foo);
    visit(y, &MyFuncsBase::foo);

    // Ooooh, arguments and return type support too!
    int res = visit(y, &MyFuncsBase::bar, 12.0f);
    return 0;

Obviously, this needs some cleanup, some proper forwarding semantics, etc... It's just here to demonstrate how the better syntax can be implemented.


I also really dislike that universal singleton:

template <typename T> T *get_instance()
    static T ret;
    return &ret;

Not only is it unnecessary, but it also brings a hefty amount of per-call overhead.

You are also coding way too defensively for my taste. all of these can_static_cast and can_dynamic_cast are all redundant with the checks that the compiler performs when assigning values to ptr.

If you want to provide users with clearer errors when they mess up, then a simple std::is_base_of<> will suffice.

similarly, the following is perfectly fine for the users to do:

void call_foo(BaseT *base) override

So that derived<>() member function seems like extra api surface for no reason.

  • \$\begingroup\$ About get_instance: Good point, I'll replace it with a static object in DynStorage<T>::Implementation. About the derived<>(): The intent was to make an universal downcasting function, since static_cast doesn't work with virtual bases. About the alternative visiting syntax: Looks interesting, but the downside is that it requires writing MyFuncsBase:: each time. I guess I need to think what do I like more. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2018 at 12:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could make an argument that a universal downcaster is a potentially useful tool in general, but I see it as something orthogonal. I think you should just make a down_cast<> template function as a complete separate library/feature, and limit DynStorage to only performing the work it's supposed to do. \$\endgroup\$
    – user128454
    Jul 1, 2018 at 12:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ func_base::copy_ requires derived<>() to function properly, but maybe I should put it into a separate header indeed. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2018 at 13:17

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